PREVIEW: New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars

NEW ORLEANS — Teddy Bridgewater is playing and living in the moment.

The New Orleans quarterback had his best game as a member of the Saints in last week’s 31-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bridgewater completed 26-of-34 passes for 314 yards and tied a career-high with 4 passing touchdowns.

“It is hard to measure it, but I am just playing the game,” said Bridgewater who has gone 3-0 as a starter filling in for the injured Drew Brees. “I am enjoying it. Living in the moment. I’m confident in doing so. These guys around here, we all feed off of each other and it’s a confident group.

“So for me, I step into the huddle and I’m looking to looking into the guy’s eyes and you see those guys exuding that confidence,” Bridgewater added. “For me as a player, it’s just like, man, these guys are so confident that I’m going to have to be as confident as those guys.”

Bridgewater will look to keep that confident approach going on Sunday as New Orleans (4-1) plays at the Jacksonville (2-3). Kickoff is set for noon at TIAA Bank Field. The Saints enter the game against the Jaguars with an 8-game winning steak in inter-conference matchups.

The Saints will look to replicate the tempo against the Bucs when the team amassed 457 yards of offense.

“Last week was definitely our best week establishing tempo,” Bridgewater said. “Coach (Payton) mentioned it, just having that tempo from the start. You could feel it all week last week when we were practicing and it transferred over to the game. We want to try to keep that tempo, keep that momentum going forward, and just keep trying to play fast.”

The Saints defense meanwhile will be tasked with stopping, or at least slowing down on Sunday, a pair of former LSU offensive stars in running back Leonard Fournette and wide reciever DJ Chark.

Fournette enters Sunday’s game with 512 rushing yards, which is third best in the league, and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The Saints defense meanwhile is giving up only 108.4 rushing yards per game.

“The thing that’s dangerous about him is the speed,” Payton said. “If you can get an edge, he’s one of those backs that that can score a touchdown from anywhere on the field.”

Chark meanwhile has become of one of the Jaguars more reliable and dynamic pass catchers. Chark leads the team in all four major receiving categories with 27 receptions for 485 yards, averaging 18 yards per catch, and 5 touchdowns.

“He’s a big target that can run and I think it happens at times,” Payton said. “A quarterback comes in and there’s some confidence that’s usually borne out of some plays or a game and then all of a sudden that continues to grow. I think you’ve seen it with those two guys.” 

That quarterback Payton speaks of is cultural phenomenon Gardner Minshew. The rookie out of Washington State, who was thrust into the starter’s role following an injury to Nick Foles, has thrown for 1,279 yards, completed 66.7 percent of his passes with a TD-INT ratio of 9-1.

“He’s smart,” Payton said. “He understands their offense. He was a real good college player and I think that’s helped him. You can see his leadership on the tape when you watch him. If things break down, he’s someone that can move around and extend plays.”

The Saints defense will look to get an advantage with their pass rush which has already recorded 16 sacks through five games. 

“I think we’re deeper in the defensive line than we were a year ago,” Payton said. “Shoot, I think we’re better across the board. I think we’ve had some good additions. I think Ryan (Nielsen) and BY (Brian Young) have done a great job, but I think that the depth has helped us. 

“We dressed eight defensive linemen last week, which is a high number,” Payton added. “Then at linebacker we’ve had some additions, but I think overall our front is playing better.”